How I Recovered From a Decade-Long Battle With Bulimia: My Story of Hope

I thought I’d never be free.

During the darkest decade of my life, I thought I’d never win my battle against bulimia. It seemed impossible to escape the powerful binge-purge cycle of addiction. Impossible to imagine a life of normalcy ever becoming reality for me again—especially after several failed attempts.

And yet, this year in April, I will celebrate five years of freedom from that darkness. Five years of saying NO to bulimia and YES to God and life.

This post is not meant to be a how-to guide for overcoming bulimia or any other eating disorder. I am well aware that no two recovery stories are exactly the same, and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. Plus, I’m not a professional.

My true desire in sharing is that something in my story—one word, one thought, one idea—might help even one person by offering hope.

It was hope in God’s truth, strength, faithfulness, and grace that eventually led me to let go of bulimia and trust Him with my life.

And now, I am proof that hope prevails. That freedom is possible. That life is worth LIVING.

My Story of Recovery

The Addiction

Whether or not you consider bulimia an addiction, it felt like one for me—starting off slow and seemingly harmless, but eventually becoming a craving I felt powerless to stop. At the peak of my battle with bulimia, I binged and purged multiple times per day, nearly every day. It was a fix and I could not get enough. Some days, my next binge was all I could think about. It consumed me.

Somehow, I hid the bingeing and purging from everyone I knew. Friends and family sometimes questioned whether I had an eating disorder, but I adamantly shut them down with lies. I’d built up such a facade of perfection that I couldn’t let anyone see the real mess inside.

In order to binge and purge that excessively, I also spent an excessive amount of money on binge foods. Some months, up to $900. This required more lying, as I blamed my high credit card bills on increased prices for regular groceries and a lack of self control for new clothes.

Basically, I bought a LOT of food. To stretch my money, I stuck to store brands, sale items, bulk quantities, and fast food dollar menus, but occasionally splurged to satisfy specific cravings. In one binge-purge episode, I could eat an entire pizza, a bag of frozen chicken nuggets, plus chips. Or, an entire 2-layer chocolate cake, carton of cookies, and quart of ice cream. If that seems inconceivable, let me tell you. I looked like I was nine months pregnant and felt like I could barely move.

Throwing up was just as awful. But, in my mind it was non-negotiable. I had to get that food out of my body.

I also went through a brief period of abusing laxatives. Something like six at a time. If you’ve ever used even one or two laxatives, you’ll understand why I say it was brief. I couldn’t handle it and soon went back to puking exclusively.

Circa. 2008 / battling bulimia
Halloween 2012 / battling bulimia

The Recovery Attempts

I won’t get into all the times I attempted and quit recovery, but I will say that I now view those attempts as progress toward the recovery process—not failures. While they certainly felt like failures at the time, they also proved that I wanted to change. I wanted to recover.

Suffice it to say, I tried eliminating food temptations and occasionally went a few days or one to two weeks without bingeing and purging. Once I told my family, we talked and cried and argued through accountability, and I even met with a counselor. The entire time, I also prayed to God—begging forgiveness for making food and weight my idols, and asking for strength to overcome them. But, the addictive urge to binge would ultimately win and I’d fall back into the all-consuming cycle.

It wasn’t that people couldn’t help or that God didn’t listen. Honestly, I saw countless opportunities to stop. Reasons to say NO. God was there. Family cared. It was ultimately me who chose to give into the urge and continue my relationship with bulimia.

April 2014 / attempted recovery

The Turning Point

I can’t recall exactly how I came across it, but in early 2016, I stumbled upon The Bulimia Help Method by Richard and Ali Kerr. They wrote the book after Ali personally recovered from bulimia, to share the method that worked for her, along with research they gathered throughout the process.

What first intrigued me was that Ali had been through what I was experiencing. The research data also made me feel like I wasn’t alone and, more importantly, wasn’t mentally ill. To quickly summarize, the research showed that my binge urges stemmed from the fact that I was otherwise severely restricting (aka. starving) my body of the calories (aka. the nutrients and energy) it needed to survive and thrive. The basic urge to binge was my body simply reacting to my poor treatment of it. It was telling me to stock up on food because it didn’t know when I’d properly feed it again.

Seems logical, right? Well, I sure thought so when I read it. So, I read on.

The next point that hit home for me was this: cravings won’t kill you.

When I read that, I stopped. Dumbfounded. Of course, I never thought a binge craving would kill me. But, I realized then that subliminally, I did believe that lie whenever the urge felt so strong I just had to give in.

Cravings won’t kill you. It was a simple truth that set me on the path to full freedom.

The Recovery Stages

First, as any addict may understand, cold turkey is tough. It may work for some, but I’d already been there, done that, and it didn’t work for me. Being one of those all-or-nothing types, that made it all the more frustrating. Mentally, I felt like the only acceptable way to recovery was to cease all bingeing and purging immediately. Once and for all. But that, my friends, was an extremely unrealistic expectation.

I had to retrain my brain to believe that recovery is a process. That all progress counts. That one setback doesn’t equal total failure. And, that I could trust God and His truth and faithfulness above all the false feelings that lingered.

And so, I started by committing to one day. Just one day a week of no bingeing and purging—and, more importantly, no restricting on that day. This was the point when my bulimia had gotten so out of hand that I was bingeing and purging multiple times every single day. So yes, that ONE DAY was progress for me.

Gradually, I increased to two days. Three. Four. Five. Six. And then. You know, it’s funny that the seventh day was the hardest to let go of. I hovered at six for a bit longer than I would’ve liked. Partly out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what my life would truly look like without bulimia because it had consumed my identity for ten-plus years. But, a part of me also thought I would miss it, as crazy as that sounds. While ruining my life, bulimia also gave me a false sense of security. Acknowledging this and trusting God to be my complete source of comfort and truth was the next step in finally letting go of that seventh day.

After giving up one full week, I knew I wasn’t in the clear. It was still a daily process. So I challenged myself to go one month bulimia-free. I even incentivized it with a reward: skydiving. It was on my bucket list, but I hadn’t been able to afford it due to spending all that money on binge food. So, I booked a nonrefundable skydiving session for one month out—knowing that it would discourage me from buying more food and motivate me to live that day feeling like I earned it. *Read more about my skydiving adventure here.*

The Reality of Recovery

For a while during my recovery, I still felt like an addict desperate for my next fix. The cravings were no joke, and there were days when I prayed almost continuously, telling God that I trusted His truth above the lie that the urge to binge was too strong. Even when I didn’t know if I believed it, I prayed it. I knew I had to change my mindset and reestablish God’s truth as supreme over my life.

Moment by moment. Day by day. Week by week. It worked. The cravings lessened. My body started healing. I started re-learning how to live again. I started learning who I was—without bulimia and with God.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.

  • Weight gain—mostly temporary water weight, but still mentally challenging.
  • Grocery shopping without filling my cart with all the “bad” foods.
  • Ending the mindset that foods are “good” or “bad” and allowing myself to eat anything.
  • Slowly adding the former “bad” foods into my life (hello peanut butter and egg yolks!) without feeling the need to purge after eating them—even in normal quantities.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. It was uncomfortable. Scary. Frustrating.

The Beauty of Grace

But, going through it made me stronger. It led me to understand God’s grace in a way that my previous 30-ish years as a Christian never did. Now, five years recovered, I feel the power of that grace as if I were the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and joyfully proclaim that “[God’s] grace is sufficient for [me], for [His] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Italy (November 2017) / free from bulimia
Belgium (December 2018) / free from bulimia
Belgium (December 2018) / free from bulimia
May 2020 / free from bulimia
June 27, 2020 / enjoying my wedding cake free from bulimia (photo cred: Nick Levine Photography)

And so, I share all of this, again, not in an effort to coach anyone through recovery or boast in my strength for beating bulimia.

No. I share it because, above all, I want to spread hope. I want to share my story of grace for any one of you facing the challenge of overcoming something hard. Something that has you feeling trapped or unsure that you’ll ever be free.

The truth is:

You’re not alone. Freedom is possible. Life is worth fighting for. And grace is enough.

Croatia (November 2019) / free from bulimia
Knoxville, TN (Nov 2020) / free from bulimia
September 2020 / free from bulimia
Utah (March 2020) / free from bulimia

For more on how freedom from bulimia changed my life, read: Why I Adventure: Part I & Part II

4 thoughts on “How I Recovered From a Decade-Long Battle With Bulimia: My Story of Hope

  1. Jeanie

    I too struggled with bulimia. Falling in love helped me overcome it! Even today I struggle with the good food bad food concept. I have to remind myself that moderation is okay. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s